The U.S. Supreme Court struck down President Joe Biden’s student loan plan to forgive roughly $430 billion in debt.
Just a day after the court ruled against affirmative action in college admissions, 6-3 justices ruled against Biden’s plan, accusing the Education Department of misusing the HEROES Act of 2003 to justify sweeping loan forgiveness.
President Biden unveiled his student loan debt relief plan during the run-up to the mid-term elections on August 24, 2022. The plan canceled up to $10,000 debt for borrowers who earned less than $125,000 per year, and up to $20,000 for Pell Grant recipients.
The Secretary of Education used the HEROES Act, which gives the department the power to “waive or modify” provisions pertaining to student loans, as an authority to carry out the plan.
Six Republican-led states sued the administration on Sept 29, 2022, calling the plan unlawful and a misuse of the act, which was put in place to assist borrowers affected or involved in war or a national emergency.
The states also claimed the relief is a damaging and exacerbating move during a time of inflation and mostly benefits the top 60% of the income distribution.
The court opinion, written by Chief Justice John Roberts, agreed with the plaintiff, stating the Education Secretary had misused the HEROES Act and exceeded their authority.
The opinion also featured a quote by former Democratic speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, from a July 28, 2021 press conference, addressing the issue.
“People think that the President of the United States has the power for debt forgiveness. He does not. That has to be an act of Congress,” Pelosi said.
Matthew Rowley, Biodiversity and Conservation major at BYU, feels concerned over the verdict.
“I think the student loan forgiveness was a good thing for a lot of people. It is a good thing for people to be able to get the education that they need,” Rowley said.
Rowley also lamented the high cost of education for students.
“I think it’s unfortunate education costs enough that students have to take out loans,” Rowley said.
Justice Elena Kagan wrote the dissenting opinion and said the plaintiff did not have a legitimate personal stake to warrant a suit, and merely opposed the policy on ideological grounds.
Kagan went on to explain the Secretary of Education has the authority to replace old provisions with new terms and conditions to counteract the effects of a national emergency under the HEROES Act. Loan forgiveness is therefore justifiable because the COVID-19 pandemic was designated a national emergency, according to Kagan.
BYU student Sam Brookes sympathizes with other students but worries about the impact loan forgiveness will have on the economy.
“It would increase our national debt, which wouldn’t be great. If we can do things that will not compound our national debt, I think that would be good because it’s getting pretty high,” Brookes said.
Biden commented on Twitter regarding the Supreme Court’s decision.
“Today, the Supreme Court sided with Republican elected officials, blocking relief to over 40 million working and middle-class Americans. I believe the Court’s decision is wrong — I will not stop fighting to deliver relief to borrowers who need it the most,” Biden wrote.